In this post: What’s a“book dummy?”, how I chose the size and format for Hooky, my process for making book dummies and a run-down on the tools I use.
When I researched how to make picture books four years ago, I found all kinds of resources and templates online for making these things called “dummies”. This is how people who made picture books have been doing it for ages. It’s a bit old fashioned, but I figured out a way to modernise it a bit.
A dummy is a prototype of the book you want to make.
It is a physical object mocked-up with folded paper and stapled together. Your printed text is clipped into bits and taped in with your sketches, and you can leaf through it like a real book.
It gives you a sense of how your end-product will act in real life.
After many years working with computer graphics and spending so much time in front of a screen — any excuse to play with something real was welcome.
I think I made 5 or 6 dummies for my first book. It was fun, but, in the end— they frustrated me. It was nice to work with paper, scissors, tape and a pencil – to hold the dummy in my hand— but the process was slow and laborious.
I was continuously rearranging panels, ripping pages out, tearing out staples and stapling again. I was wasting a lot of paper.
So I came up with this process of using a digital dummy while I was fumbling around making my first book —and honed it while making Hooky.
It’s part offline, part online.
Size of the comic.
One helpful aspect of making a dummy is holding it in your hands. Holding the dummy gives you a tactical sense of how it is to read your book. Different sized pages are easier to turn than others. Different sized books compete with similar-sized books on the bookshelf—in stores and at home. Different formats and weights cost different amounts to post to customers. Printers offer industry-standard print sizes at better prices than custom sized ones.
I love magazines and comics, so I got my hands on all sorts of comics—large and small: “Eightball” by Daniel Clowes, Tor Freeman’s “Oddleigh”, Hergé’s “Tintin”, Seth’s “Palookaville”, Luke Pearson’s “Hilda” (in two different formats). I found that they basically fell into one of three formats LARGE (bigger than A4), MEDIUM (nearly A4) and SMALL(around A5). Then I looked at a couple of magazines I have been reading over the years: New Yorker and Monocle.
I love both of these publications for their design and their use of illustration. I gladly took the bits I liked most and used them in Hooky. Monocle regularly sent out special supplements with their magazines, and I collected them over the years. They were little gems of design and really sparked my interest in the tactile nature of print. These editions were almost always the SMALL format, so I went with that.
Also, I seem to remember my thinking— on the matter of size— was based on how inconspicuous it would be for a grown-up to read my comic on a bus or Metro. I figured it COULD pass for an indie magazine or a book of short stories. I’m not sure it succeeded, but that’s how Hooky ended up the size it is! SMALL also turns out to be a good price point for printing, envelopes, shipping and is handy to store in my studio!
Length of the comic.
I use a tweet I found by Michael Deforge as a guide for comic lengths, and try to fit my idea within that page structure.
It’s pretty random, but I like having some sort of framework that I can fill.
I figured I’d have a 60-page book, so that would fit 2x16pagers, 2×4 pagers, a 7, 6, 3, 2, and 1-page comic— and 9 pages of text and illustration, including the table of contents. 59 pages! Then there’s one dud of a blank page at the end that the printer uses to print their own info on. 60 pages. Not too heavy, not too thin. I like it.
60 was a number I chose because it’s a nice amount, but also because printers like you to have your page-count be divisible by 4 (or 8, or 16: the fewer pages the lower the number it should be divisible by.)
I make an InDesign file with that many pages and save.
I won’t go into how I designed Hooky in InDesign now.
(I basically learned how to use it as I used it—as I do with everything!)
Let’s stuff comics into the dummy!
Next time: we dive into sketching, Photoshop and previewing.